Description: OBJECTIVE: Research and development of nano-scale coatings for protection of electronics and other sensitive items from seawater and salt fog. DESCRIPTION: Marine (seawater) environments are harsh on equipment, particularly electronics with seawater"s high conductivity leading to short circuits and increased corrosion rates. Typically, electronics and other items that are susceptible to seawater damage are physically isolated in bags, hard containers or with waterproof conformal coatings, such as silicone, epoxy or urethane. Containers are bulky and interfere with equipment use, while conformal coatings add significant thickness and impede heat transfer. Furthermore, existing seawater isolation methods also interfere with the interconnectivity of different electronic assemblies. Containers and bags must be designed to accept additional assemblies and conformal coatings often add high contact resistance and are too thick to accept a connector. Because of this, connection points are often left uncoated and serve as failure points. Significant numbers of expensive electronic equipment are ruined/damaged each year because of container failure or inadvertent wetting during operations. This increases operational costs and risks mission failure due to inoperable radios, etc. Protective waterproof coatings are already being sold in the commercial market (primarily cell phone market) as an after market product but these are limited in depth and duration. Additionally, Special Warfare divers may be required to transport electronics underwater. For this reason, the coating must be capable of protecting equipment for long durations and at depth during an underwater traverse. Superhydrophobic nano-scale coatings have shown potential for protection of water-susceptible equipment such as electronics. Superhydrophobicity is defined as having a contact angle of greater than 150 degrees, which has been demonstrated through the use of coatings with nano-scale geometric surface modification and/or surface chemical functionalization. There are several challenges associated with the application of these coatings: adhesion with various substrates, mechanical durability (scratching, peeling, crushing of the geometric features), coating uniformity over complex geometries, economical feasibility of the application process, and allowing for the connection of different electronic assemblies without compromising the seawater resistance. Functionally, the seawater environment also presents many challenges. For example, coatings must possess low electrical conductivity to prevent short-circuiting, high thermal conductivity to dissipate heat, and not break down during extended exposure to underwater hydrostatic pressure. PHASE I: Thoroughly evaluate existing nano-scale water protection coating technologies and identify promising options to pursue in both salt and fresh water. Conduct a feasibility study to predict coating performance as it relates to the number of hours a piece of protected electronics equipment could be submerged at depths ranging from 0 to 100 meters before coating failure. Develop a detailed development plan for the most promising coating technology(ies) that includes materials, application methods and evaluation tests. The objective of this USSOCOM Phase I SBIR effort is to conduct and document the results of a thorough feasibility study to investigate what is in the art of the possible within the given trade space that will satisfy a needed technology. The feasibility study should investigate all known options that meet or exceed the minimum performance parameters specified in the Phase I topic write-up. It should also address the risks and potential payoffs of the innovative technology options that are investigated and recommend the option that best achieves the objective of this technology pursuit. The funds obligated on the resulting Phase I SBIR contracts are to be used for the sole purpose of conducting a thorough and comprehensive feasibility study using scientific experiments and laboratory studies as necessary. Operational prototypes will not be developed with USSOCOM SBIR funds during Phase I feasibility studies. Operational prototypes developed with other than SBIR funds that are provided at the end of Phase I feasibility studies will not be considered in deciding what firm(s) will be invited to Phase II. All offerors shall include as part of the Phase I proposal the transportation costs for two round trips to travel to Tampa, Florida, for two separate meetings. The first travel requirement shall be the Phase I Kick-Off meeting and the second travel requirement shall be for the Phase I Out-Brief meeting. The Principal Investigator and all other representatives needed to discuss the offeror's technology pursuit shall attend the Phase I Kick-Off and Out-Brief meetings. PHASE II: Develop promising coating technology and demonstrate the coating at a laboratory level, considering environmental variables that may be encountered in service, such as temperature, salinity and pressure. Examine and characterize the coating and application method(s) through appropriate testing methods. Design and develop prototype systems based on the best design evaluated by Phase I. Evaluate the effectiveness of the coating for the prototype systems under environmental conditions to include: environment pressurized to 90 psi seawater environment to 100 meters water temperatures between 32-95 degrees F PHASE III DUAL USE APLICATIONS: Refine and mature coating process based on Phase II testing results. Demonstrate the coating on complex electronics and materials that are representative of those to be seen in the field. Conduct and report testing to evaluate coating performance and durability, considering appropriate environmental variables such as temperature, salinity and pressure. This technology is applicable to the commercial electronics industry, where water protection could be useful (cell phones, radios and other consumer electronics). Furthermore, this manner of water protection may also be applied to a variety of different substrates. REFERENCES: 1. Chinn, J.; Helmrich, F.; Guenther, R.; Wiltse, M.; Hurst, K.; and Ashurst, W."Durable Super-hydrophic Nano-composite Films. NSTI-Nanotech 2010; 1: 612-615. 2. Brinker, C.J.; Branson, E.; Kissel, D.J.; Cook, A.; and Singh, S."Superhyrophobic Coating". 2008 R & D 100 award entry form, Sandia National Laboratories. 3. Branson et al."Preparation of Hydrophobic Coatings". US patent 7485343, 2009. 4. Zhai et al."Superhydrophobic Coatings". US patent 2006/0029808, 2006. 5. Doshi, D.A.; Shah, P.B.; Singh, S.; Branson, E.D.; Malanoski, A.P.; Watkins, E.B.; Majewski, J.;van Swol, F.; and Brinker, C.J."Investigating the Interface of Superhydrophobic Surfaces in Contact with Water". Langmuir 2005; 21: 7805-7811.